The dude with a wave of blondish hair falling on the side of his forehead and often photographed in sunglasses stands six feet four inches (1.93 cm) tall. But the multiple hats he wears in music and the sum total of his talents far outreach his height. The discography page of the website for T Bone Burnett covers three categories that add up to a big number: 13 solo and band albums, 71 produced albums and eight film soundtrack albums.
Music in Film
The number of credits may be impressive but quality trumps quantity. Burnett has produced for artists as diverse as Diana Krall, Elvis Costello, Ryan Bingham, Willie Nelson, Dylan and B. B. King. His soundtracks include Hunger Games, Crazy Heart, Walk the Line, and The Horse Whisperer, to name a few. Readers will note the Academy Award winners on that list. The film that began his musical screen fame was O Brother, Where Art Thou? from 2000, although he had worked on The Big Lebowski released in 1999. Walk the Line became another milestone when he trained Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon to do the vocals.
At the beginning of his senior year with forty years in the music business, Burnett has already taken home multiple Grammy Awards. The honors came from a hit album by Robert Plant and Alison Kraus, a blues album by B.B.King and for the song called “The Weary Kind” that he co-wrote with Ryan Bingham, that also won a Golden Globe. Walk the Line and Oh Brother Where Art Thou? earned him more Grammys along with another duet album by Tony Bennett and k.d. lang.
Although he was born in St. Louis in 1948, Burnett spent his early years in Fort Worth, Texas and, rather than go to college, bought his own recording studio when he was only 17. To jumpstart his own career as a musician, he moved to Los Angeles and in 1975, received an invitation to play guitar on Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue. After that gig came the Alpha Band that lasted for three albums. He began producing in the 1980s and expanded to film in the 1990s.
Quoting from his biography, the man is an”artist, songwriter, producer, performer, concert producer, record company owner and artists’ advocate.” He happens to be married to his second wife, Academy Award screenplay winner Callie Khouri, famous for Thelma and Louise and the creator of the TV series Nashville. Burnett is executive producer of the show.
He was born Joseph Henry Burnett so where did T Bone come from? It was reportedly a nickname that originated with Texas bluesman, T-Bone Walker.